Stolen bases have been down across the sport for nearly two decades but Major League Baseball may experience a renaissance due to the influx of elite speedsters such as Billy Hamilton of the Reds, Starling Marte of the Pirates and Jean Segura of the Brewers. Conventional baseball thinking since the 1990s has been that a stolen base attempt is too risky. Risking one of only 27 outs in a game for the mere prize of an extra base was not worth the risk. When analyzed further, if the risk can be limited then the stolen base can be an undervalued asset and a spark for the team. Is the risk as great as one may think? The general rule of thumb is that the benefit-risk breakeven point for the stolen base is a 75% success rate. Thus, if you can convert 80% or greater of your attempts you are creating runs and enjoying more benefit than cost. The best catchers in the league only throw out about 30% of would be base stealers, letting 70% complete the thievery. So the trick is getting that last 10%, making the difference between 70% and 80% of stolen base attempts.
The easiest and most effective way to get from a 70% success rate to an 80% success rate is to only allow the speedsters run. Not every player should be attempting to steal a bag. No one begrudges Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann from only moving station to station. However, the 2014 New York Yankees have two elite base stealers patrolling the outfield in Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. In addition, they were will have speed on the bench in the likes of Ichiro and Eduardo Nunez. Joe Girardi needs to let the guys who can run, run wild and wreak havoc on the base paths. Jacoby Ellsbury led the league in stolen bases in 2008, 2009 and 2013. Brett Gardner led the league in 2011. Ichiro led the league in 2001. An increase in stolen bases will lead to increase scoring for the Yankees in 2014 and should be an integral part of the offense in 2014.